News: Bruno Beltrão - transforming hip hop

Friday 30 May 2014 by Carmel Smith

Bruno Beltrão - self portrait. Source: Wikipedia

Bruno Beltrão, the Brazilian dance artist who is dedicated to transforming street dance and establishing its place in the theatre, is back in London with a new show which has been developed from found material online –creating a dance piece which crosses cultural boundaries and has no roots. Crackz is at Sadler’s Wells (3 & 4 June) as part of LIFT – the festival of international theatre…

Tell us about your new show Crackz – what inspired it?
In 2010 Grupo de Rua found that we would have two years of financial support – being able to work continuously was something that we’d never experienced. It meant we would to be able to put into practice my idea to start a work where we could spend some time learning actions and gestures created by people that were available online. By copying them we would generate material for this new work. We spent two weeks together with laptops and tablets gathering and collecting random phrases of movement. The only requirement was to choose actions that would work well in repetition. I selected the ones I found interesting and in March 2012 we began learning these actions.

Our previous shows were mostly made from daily improvisations, but this time we started from ready materials. Our new piece is based more or less on 28 themes ‘stolen’ from urban dances artists like Tight Eyez, Bboy Cloud, Bboy Issue, Lilou and other anonymous artists from the internet. The notion that the individual is more abstract than the collective interests me – and that our creative independence does not exist.

Give us some examples of the kind of movement material you worked with…
We choose some gestures of a Korean street dancer called Bboy Issue, for example. In one of these sequences, he performs a kind of déboulé [a fast sequence of half turns], but with very rapid exchanges between the tip and heel that has fascinated us. We also had beautiful recordings of whirling dervishes and decided to merge these two references. In another clip of a bboy battle, we appropriated another whirl, now double and horizontally. The idea of turning on itself is very powerful and I believe still tells a lot about us, especially today.

Does your interest in film inform your work in dance?
Possibly. We use massive amounts of video as the starting point for Crackz – and we generated 80 hours of recordings ourselves and a lot of time was spent on a computer editing this material. Derrida believed that dance happens only when improvised. And he said that every record creates nothing more than dead bodies. And so we started toying with the idea that we were producing a dead dance.

How did you first get in to dance?
I worked from an early age. When I got a camera from my parents (aged 10), I produced movies with friends, spent the entire weekend writing scripts, and preparing the ‘set’ (all locations were inside the house.), So I always had this impulse to ‘pick up and to do’. I play-worked from very early on. I was sure I’d be a film director.
When I was a teenager I was invited to go to a nightclub called Scaffo, in my hometown Niterói, where everyone went to dance and have fun. Soon we were creating a small group called Power Dance at a club on Saturday afternoons.
A year after this very serious fun, I started (with my friend Rodrigo Bernardi) teaching at a ballet studio in town, at age 16. It seems strange that dance became my profession; it was a choice made so long ago – I just kept so involved with it because we could transform it…

Early on you were in to competitive street dance, but you moved away from that..
After four or five years (aged about 17 -20) I felt like a dog doing tricks in the circus. Adults were looking at us without taking us seriously. Even then this bothered me. I began to realize that hip hop, despite being a fantastic vocabulary, wasn’t really related to the theatrical tradition as a whole – and finding that place in the theatre has been our quest ever since. But I had no idea that this project would take a lifetime!

As you tour widely, are you aware of different ways that dance is perceived around the world – or is it a truly universal language?
There are different ways to perceive not only from person to person, but even worse, from moment to moment. The idea of a universal language gives me goosebumps.

Are you looking forward to Brazil being the centre of world attention for the football World Cup later this year? Will you be there/involved in anyway?
I’ve got nothing against football – but like many Brazilians, I do not feel great about it. In 2012 I was invited to attend a meeting about the opening of the event – but I soon understood that they wanted me to present my work, so then maybe they could call me as a volunteer. The dance community in general was disappointed with the call to work in the World Cup. The value of professional dance is always underestimated.

See Crackz at Sadler’s Wells on Tuesday 3 & Wednesday 4 June

Photo: Bruno Beltrão – self portrait. Source: Wikipedia

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